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Building and Designing the Most Comfortable Mother-in-Law Suite

One of the things that the pandemic has taught us is the value of family and how fleeting life is. If we are to orient our homes towards a certain design style, why not lay everything out in a way that improves and encourages close family ties?

One way that can help us remain connected to the ones we love is by creating guest spaces that can help them feel comfortable during their visits. Enter the concept of mother-in-law suite—a separate structure or casita that is purposefully built and designed for relatives who want to stay over for a given period. It’s not just your typical guestroom; it’s purposefully built outside of the main home so that both sides of the family can still have the privacy and boundaries they need while a visit takes place.

If you think this is a good idea for your family, here are some tips and pointers for building and designing one that will make any guest feel comfortable.

Double-check your local building codes

The first thing you need to do before you even consider adding a mother-in-law suite is if your local building codes allow it in the first place. This includes identifying if you will be allowed to build a separate structure on your property, and you may need to acquire a separate permit for it. Here are some other common requirements you might have to deal with:

  • Separate entrance from your home’s main entrance
  • Separate sewer and water connections
  • Access to parking, whether it’s garage or driveway

Be strategic with the location and orientation of the suite

Think of your mother-in-law suite as a microcosm of the main home: It also needs to be in the most ideal location on your property. After you’ve identified what is permitted in your city, you can convert your shed, basement, or garage into a luxurious suite. But if you’re building it from the ground up, make sure it’s located and oriented in a way that maximizes natural light and warmth from the sun, while still insulated enough that won’t the place won’t be too hot to stay in.

The general rule is for the structure to face true north so that the main living areas get the best of everything that the sun has to offer. Make sure there is a separate entrance for the suite so that your guests don’t feel like they’re interrupting your family time every time they need to leave and enter the property.

Another thing you need to consider is flooding tendencies. If the structure is located in a lower area, make concessions so that the structure is protected from rainwater. A rain garden is a wonderful and natural way to direct water away from the home, but you also need to waterproof the home by ensuring that the floors are sealed with epoxy resin and other similar safeguards.

senior woman in a wheelchair

Make accessibility a priority

You never know when you would have a parent or a relative come who might be experiencing some form of illness or disability during their stay. For this reason, a loft-style or a structure that needs stairs might not be the most optimal, especially for guests on the older side. Here are some tips for ensuring that your mother-in-law suite is disability-friendly:

  • Maximize the space by doing away with unnecessary additions like a big kitchen island or counter.
  • Understand your loved one’s mobility level and design the space around their capacity. For example, if the relative or your parent uses a wheelchair, the suite’s hallways must be easy to navigate and have tons of space. The day-to-day activities of the guests must also be taken into consideration.
  • If stairs cannot be avoided, make sure to incorporate a stairlift. Another addition you need to consider is a residential wheelchair lift, which helps for enhanced accessibility for elevated platforms that are hard for wheelchair-bound people to navigate. These are often used for the deck, porch, or garage.

Keep the suite self-reliant

If your local codes allow it, make sure it has a receiving room, a kitchenette, a bathroom, and a bedroom—truly a smaller version of your home. Keep the decor neutral and basic enough that your guests can truly feel at home in it, and they can add their personal items, like picture frames, every time they visit.

A mother-in-law suite might be the best way for adult children to stay connected with their parents in their twilight years. Consider having this addition into your property and let it improve your family life and the value of your home.

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